It’s a transformative experience - losing your lifelong partner late in life. It’s unlikely that you’ll replace the censor, mentor and social companion you’ve just lost.

Rather, what happens is that you relate differently to the world around you and your world relates differently to you. Handled well, it’s a new beginning.

A simple statistical fact is that 50% of people will find themselves ‘fresh out of a partner’ and be faced with consciously choosing to ‘go on’ with a positive attitude to an unwelcome transformation.

An obvious first step is to be clear about your needs.

Your relationships will change

Your relationships form a series of concentric circles around you. “It’s like standing in your home but the walls have fallen down”, said my friend when her partner died. Some of that feeling reflects the consequential fracture of a relationship’s network, including family relationships.

Family

Your family experiences your partner’s death as a broken link in the family circle. It’s inevitable that family relationships shift as they find new ways of re-bonding. Often, you acquire major insights when you face significant life change. These insights allow you to see your family anew and take the time to explore your needs and new ways of relating to your family members.

Close friends

Your closest friends are a safe reservoir for your emotional turmoil. They may see you as more ‘available’ and you may respond with more spontaneity and serendipity in your efforts to stay ‘in the swim’. These gentle nudges are opportunities to push inertia aside and ask, “Is this what I really want?” or “How would I like to ‘reinvent’ myself through different activities?”

Supportive groups

Everyone needs supportive groups, at any age. Some people have felt restricted in pursuing an activity by their partner’s disinterest. Now free to explore further, new groups can become an enjoyable source of companionship. Groups of ‘couples’ may be a difficult reminder of what you’ve lost. The upside of this is that couples can become more interested in you as an individual, separate from your former ‘couple persona’.

Rituals can benefit you on many levels

  • Current wisdom encourages creating new activities that reflect your former partner’s legacy, their sense of purpose, influences, inspiration and values. Research says that small, every day private rituals that connect you to your former partner provide the important benefit of restoring your sense of control.
  • Rituals can help the family re-bond. The predictability and routine of say, a weekly dinner together, provides a sense of security and promise of the future.
  • Rituals can be very handy at points in the day when your former partner’s absence is most acute. My friend uses ‘talking books’ at the dinner table. My neighbour would take to the phone to ring her friends around 6pm and they’d chat ‘over a drink’.
  • Rituals can bring gratitude and hope when you find new activities you love doing, such as an early morning walk, eating breakfast cereal for dinner, having people stay over or adopting a pet.

Travelling solo, you can avoid risk and rid yourself of responsibilities for suitcases, train connections and excursion tickets. Discovering a tour operator, private concierge or a tour ‘specialist’, ready to entice you into their field of knowledge and away from your normal tourist offering, can widen your social circle with like-minded people.

Being ‘fresh out of a partner’ is an ending. It’s also a time to reveal your new beginnings.

Gabrielle Leahy, Retire & Flourish